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What are Hair Loss?

Partial or complete alopecia (or hair loss) is a relatively common problem seen in dogs, and can be due to a variety of conditions including skin infections, allergies, and endocrine disorders. Dogs of any age or breed can experience hair loss. The underlying cause can range from mild to serious in severity, so it is important to report hair loss to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Hair Loss in Dogs

Dog hair loss is typically an obvious condition and can occur at any age, in any breed, and anywhere on the body. A variety of patterns and symptoms may develop depending on the underlying cause:

  • Overall thinning of the hair
  • Hair loss around eyes and mouth
  • Patches of complete hair loss
  • Symmetrical patterns of hair loss in the same place on both sides of the body
  • Foul odor
  • Itchiness
  • Black or dark grey skin under hair loss
  • Dry, scaly skin around area of hair loss
  • Red, inflamed skin around area of hair loss
  • Oozing moisture or bleeding around area of hair loss (typically a secondary condition)
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Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Some possible causes for dog hair loss include:

  • Pressure sores
  • Friction (from a collar, for example)
  • Nervous chewing or licking
  • Trauma and/or scarring
  • Post-surgical clipping
  • Infection (bacterial, yeast or fungal)
  • Ringworm (fungal infection)
  • Allergies (fleas, food, environmental, contact)
  • Mites (Mange)
  • Abnormality in growth of the hair shaft
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Sex hormone imbalance
  • Chemotherapy
  • Skin cancer
  • Genetics (certain breeds can develop hair loss in adulthood on ears, chest, thighs, or in certain pigmented parts of the body)
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Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Dogs

If your pet is experiencing hair loss, they should be examined by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and treat the condition. Diagnosis is based on the onset of signs, pattern of hair loss, skin condition around hair loss and whether the pet is itching or uncomfortable.

  • Pattern of hair loss

    - Generalized hair loss could be a sign of mange or bacterial infection. Patches of hair loss could indicate conditions like ringworm, bacterial infection, mites, or mange. Hair loss in the rump and tail base area is often due to a flea allergy. Hair loss from the paws and face is sometimes environmental allergies (atopy). Symmetrical hair loss could be a sign of adrenal gland disorder, thyroid disorder, or abnormal sex hormone levels (endocrine disorders).

  • Blood profile

    - Blood testing will help to diagnose certain immune system conditions, hormone abnormalities, thyroid disorders, Cushing’s disease, and Diabetes mellitus.

  • Biopsy

    – If skin cancer or a tumor is suspected, or in persistent unresponsive skin lesions, the veterinarian may want to send a sample of the affected area to the laboratory to determine diagnosis and treatment.

  • Skin impression smears

    – Pressing a microscopic slide on the affected area and analyzing it can show the presence of bacteria, yeast, or inflammatory cells.

  • Skin scraping

    – Scraping the skin gently with a blade to gather hair follicles onto a slide can help detect the presence of mange mites.

  • Luminescence

    – Some ringworm species will glow a fluorescent green-yellow under ultraviolet light.

  • Allergen elimination trials

    – Feeding a hypoallergenic diet, treating fleas, or eliminating the use of certain shampoos or drugs may reveal an allergy to a certain food.  

  • Allergy testing

    - Skin and/or blood tests can narrow down the list of potential environmental allergens.

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Treatment of Hair Loss in Dogs

Depending on the diagnosis, a variety of treatments are available for dog hair loss.

  1. Antibiotics

    (oral or topical) will treat bacterial infections.

  2. Antifungals

    (oral or topical) can treat yeast and ringworm infections.

  3. Steroids

    may be required to treat certain skin conditions.

  4. Immunosuppressive Drugs or Anti-cytokine Drugs

    may be needed for environmental allergy (Atopy) control. Often life long treatment is needed.

  5. Immunotherapy

    may be needed orally or by injection for allergy desensitization.

  6. Behavioral medications

    can treat nervous chewing or licking.

  7. Medicated shampoos

    or dips can treat cases of mange.

  8. Hypoallergenic diets

    will often solve hair loss due to food allergies. Allergies to foods take some time to define. The veterinarian will recommend a prescription or over the counter hypoallergenic diet and explain the proper method of transitioning to the new diet.

  9. Monthly flea preventative

    can clear up hair loss associated with flea allergies

  10. Thyroid medication and hormone therapy

    can reverse hair loss in hormonal and endocrine disorders.

  11. Vitamin E, Vitamin A and fish oil supplements

    may be recommended for pets with certain conditions or a predisposition to dry skin or skin infections.

  12. An Elizabethan collar

    (e-collar or cone) may be required to prevent your pet from licking at or itching the affected site until healed.

  13. Surgery

    may be required to remove sections of skin cancer or tumors. Neutering or spaying your pet may be required for sex-hormone disorders.

Hair loss due to chemotherapy normally clears when chemotherapy sessions are completed. Hair loss may be permanent when caused by genetics, scarring, callouses or pressure sores. Most hair loss, when treated properly, will resolve. Recurrent skin conditions may require ongoing treatment.

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Recovery of Hair Loss in Dogs

Hair loss may need to be treated more than once, depending on your pet’s predisposition to skin infections. Always administer treatment according to the veterinarian’s instructions. Follow up appointments may be necessary to ensure the problem is resolving and any infection is clearing. Monitor your pet’s skin and hair regrowth and communicate any changes or concerns to the veterinarian so they can adjust treatment accordingly.

Hair loss can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has hair loss or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

Curious about which health plan is right for your dog? Head over to our breakdown of the best pet insurance plans.

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,400

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Hair Loss Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Aspin

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Four Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

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11 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

What kind of medication can I use to my puppy?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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11 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Your pups both appear to have a lot of hair loss in that picture, and there are many causes for this to occur. It would be best to have a veterinarian look at the puppies, as they may have parasites or skin infections, or ringworm or fungal disease. A veterinarian will be able to see what is going on when they are able to examine the pups and get the right medications.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Golden Retriever

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Two Months

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss Around Eyes

Hair loss around eyes

July 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Puppies can be affected by bacterial infections or parasites like Demodex. It would be best to have your puppy seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at the dog's skin, see what might be going on, and get medication so that your puppy is able to get back to normal quickly. I hope that all goes well.

July 15, 2020

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,400

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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